Mali said Saturday it will extend by a year the state of emergency that was first introduced after a November 2015 attack on a Bamako hotel.
The decision, adopted Friday following a cabinet meeting, will notably extend security forces’ powers of arrest and detention, and comes as a delegation of ambassadors from members of the UN Security Council visits the region.
Their five-day visit to Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso comes in response to a plea by Malian foreign affairs minister Abdoulaye Diop earlier this month to the UN Security Council for the creation of a new international regional security force.
The mooted force would aid the “G5 Sahel” states of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger all badly hit by jihadist attacks and lacking military resources.
Mali’s situation has been particularly volatile since 2012 when jihadist groups captured the entire north of the country, but the latest move by the government comes amid a surge of attacks.
Large swathes of the country remain outside the control of Malian and foreign forces, despite a military intervention by France in 2013.
The state of emergency has been almost constantly in force since the November 20, 2015 attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali’s capital, which left 20 dead as well as the two attackers.
The government last extended the state of emergency for six months in April and it will expire at the end of this month.
“The state of emergency is above all (extended) in response to the terrorism situation today in the centre of the country,” Defence Minister Tiena Coulibaly said.
“It is declared throughout the territory but essentially in the direction of that part,” Coulibaly told reporters after meeting with the visiting UN delegation, international mediators and signatories of a mid-2015 peace accord whose application has been patchy.
Coulibaly noted that despite the previous extension “terrorist attacks against civilian populations and armed and security forces are continuing”.
“There remains a high risk of serious attack on people and their property in certain areas.”
In response to the deteriorating situation in central Mali along the border with Burkina Faso and Niger in the face of continuing jihadist violence, the G5 has already reactivated a joint force with French support initially launched in November 2015.